Paying it Forward
A few weeks ago, I read of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Kenwood, Ohio, where senior pastor, Heidi Johns and associate pastor, Alex Hoops included a surprise for parishioners attending their Sunday services. One member from each family in attendance was invited to come to the sanctuary and pick an envelope at random. Inside each envelope was a check for either $100.00 or $250.00 or $500.00 with the request that the family choose a way to distribute the gift money to a person or group in need.
The money was provided through the estate of a parishioner for a total of $60,000. The idea was to share this good fortune with those who truly needed a boost, a financial gift they would otherwise not receive.
What I found remarkable was the joy and delight of those who selected the envelopes and immediately planned the dispersal of the gifts. One person said enthusiastically that he now had something he could give to someone else, something his meager paycheck did not allow. Obviously, he did not think of keeping the money for himself.
Nor did the pastors who could have thought it prudent to put the money in escrow for future, unforeseen needs. “The mission here is pure,” they said. “It’s to bless our neighbors, to help heal the world.”
A Trend Toward Kindness?
I have noticed that the evening news television networks have all included portions of their programs highlighting charitable deeds, even heroism in acts of kindness. One afternoon as I was surfing through entertainment programs, I noticed that comedian Ellen DeGeneres ended her show with a line that is her standard mantra: “Be kind to each other.” A radio report recently announced that LeBron James is adding a family village to his very successful I Promise elementary school in Akron, Ohio. He says kids need more settled home environments to succeed in school. He is putting his money where his heart is.
What Can I Do?
I think it is difficult to list or suggest how one might grow in kindness and generosity to others. Examples are legion. Volunteering at food pantries, visiting the sick and elderly, tutoring children, and on and on. Here is what I would suggest:
First, become aware of organizations that are involved in charitable giving, especially those asking for time and skills. Notice theirs igns as you drive: the VFW needing help for the pancake breakfast, the animal shelter asking for dog walkers, the church looking for fish fry workers. Keep your eyes peeled for such advertisements.
Second, pray daily for an open mind and heart. Ask the Lord to simply zoom in where you might have overlooked some need where you could have helped. The Good Samaritan did not plan on meeting the man beaten by robbers but, my, how beautifully he responded. His heart and mind were open as he turned the bend unaware of the pain he would come upon on that dusty road unlike the preoccupied Levite and Pharisee.
I wish you the excitement of opening your mind and heart to see the need only you can answer.
“Works of love, directed to one’s neighbor, are the most perfect external manifestation of the internal grace of the Spirit.”
—Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium. (Joy of the Gospel)
–And, let us gratefully remember today all of our veterans on this Veteran’s Day!